The Active Customer
Technology & Sociology9/19/2000; 11:56:33 AM 'What's the moral of this story? It's not that our auto club is staffed by incompetent employees (the rep was perfectly nice), or even that the Internet is the fastest way to get road maps (although that's obviously true). The moral is that in an imperfect world of customer service, most customers prefer to cut to the chase and help themselves. They know what they want, and they want to get it as efficiently as possible.'This truth reflects a dramatic change in the role of the customer in our economic system over the past generation. The change has occurred across three dimensions: power, specificity and activity. Each of these changes is important; their cumulative effect is enormous.'One can but hope similar changes will occur in the realm of politics someday. Now that would be a change worth having.
Regulating Privacy: At What Cost?
Privacy from Companies9/19/2000; 11:41:52 AM 'Privacy advocates who successfully transformed such previously arcane matters as credit bureau databases and DoubleClick cookies into mainstream concerns are close to winning a truly epic battle. 'After years of agitating by liberal groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, both Democrats and Republicans are suddenly expressing their support for sweeping new regulations of U.S. businesses.'Yet schemes like a federal privacy commission -- suggested this year by a bipartisan duo in Congress -- don't exactly cheer free-market organizations, which have been largely silent in this debate so far.'Wow... who will have the unenviable job of standing up in front of Congress and in front of a national audience, declare with a straight face that Americans should not have privacy? There's only one ploy that might work... But the children! Won't somebody pleazze think of the children!The biggest counterargument is from those who believe that the government can't be trusted to protect privacy, as they are one of the largest violators themselves. That's true, but who else can do it? The market has failed. Why would it even bother trying? The natural state of things is that there is benefit in invading the consumer's privacy, and while attempts to monetize personal data (like Zimtu) excites me, I have to admit it probably won't work, as it's fighting to restructure an entire entrenched economy. "Consumer demand", the magic that is supposed to right this wrong, will simply result in better hiding of the collection process, because it's just too darned valuable to give up.This is like breaking up a monopoly; only the government has the power to do it, so for better or for worse, if we want to improve things, we must allow it to try.
:CueCat Fun And Games
Misc.9/18/2000; 9:47:04 PM An interesting article at Slashdot about the :CueCat that Joel was recently mercilessly mocking. It seems the company is playing IP games after being pissed about their plan to give stuff away free and sneak a trojan horse in their drivers that report ever bar code scanned back to Digital Convergance, the creaters of the :CueCat, where they can make money selling detailed profiles. What has attracted my attention enough to warrent a post on this site is their apparent attempt to hold people to licenses by using hardware, after people created drivers for Linux which meant that you didn't need their software to use the hardware.Plus... all private data the site was collecting from the users of the Windows software was available in plain text on the webserver (according to message 147). And postal regulatoins apparently say that those who received the item unsolicted completely own it, says message 33. Installing their software may bind you to a EULA, but it seems their attempt to control how people use them are inevitably doomed to failure. Oops.It's an interesting story, that's for sure. There's a lot of annoyed people who are complaining loudly about what amounts to being notified that you are bound to a contract for using an unsolicited gift.
Letter from 2020
Humor/Amusing9/18/2000; 9:30:41 PM 'These subversives really don't seem to understand that a few restrictions are necessary for the sake of innovation. And progress has been made. We don't have spam since most people can't afford an email license due to the expensive patent royalties. Our computer systems all have the same operating system, user interface and applications so everyone knows how to use them, and although they crash and don't work very well, we all know the limitations and can live with them. We have no piracy of intellectual property since we rent it as we want it and have no means of storing it.'I think somebody censored the message en route, though, look at the ending:'I'm crazy to have written I know. But I am so happy in the world and I remember how unhappy I used to be. I wanted to somehow pass back to you the knowledge that its all going to be okay, that the world really is getting better.'What, mandatory lobotomies?
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